I found myself doomscrolling this morning and made myself stop. I think it’s time for another break from social media, or at the very least limit my interactions there severely – I can’t cut it out entirely as I’ve set up things like my daily art groups, and a writing group, and this keeps me accountable to forward momentum. But too much of it makes me cranky and cynical and I don’t like that. There’s a reason more of my work is light and fluffy and cute than not. I just want to make the world smile? Ok, maybe not even I’m that optimistic. I want to make some people smile, as often as I can, and to give them relief from reality through my writing. Ease and comfort. I know what it’s like to lose those things. I know that I’ve had it good in comparison to the Afghanis I’m praying for daily. And others all around the world who survive things most of us never think of if we can help it. And it tees me off to see whining about the little things blown all out of proportion until I want to start slapping people through the screen and telling them to snap out of it and grow up. Our culture (American, specifically although it is not limited to my country) fosters perpetual adolescence. We have it easy, and it infantilizes us. The internet makes it safe for some people to decide they have the right to force others into doing what they want.
You can’t compel love. In fact, the very moment you start trying, you kill any chance of love surviving. If by some way – being part of a frothing twitter mob springs to mind for some reason – you get someone to say they are going to do what it is you want, then you have achieved the very opposite of your stated intent. You have fostered hate. A tiny ember sprang into life in someone’s soul when you compelled them to do what you wanted. Enough embers, and the right breath of air? That’s how you get fire, my child. And when it burns you my face will be still and cold. Because I watched you build the tinder up around yourself. You never stopped to question someone’s intentions, you never gave them the benefit of the doubt. You just wanted to be right.
Why don’t people understand, you might ask? Why do they assume I’m bad when all I want is for people to give in and do what’s right*?
Because you are being evil. There’s a fascinating study I stumbled across, and it was enlightening to me in the current state of affairs. “people expect good agents will be sensitive to intentions behind requests whereas they expect evil individuals will be relatively insensitive to these intentions,” the researchers explain, “movies and folktales often depict the devil and demons as eager to grant accidental requests, whereas angels are not depicted this way. “This research tells us something very interesting about how people view good and evil, which is that people don’t just think that evil agents focus exclusively on causing harm. Instead, people relate evil to being indifference and to not caring about what people want,” Friedman said. “It also suggests that people think moral goodness is about more than producing good outcomes. People also see moral goodness as being connected with caring about what people want and intend.” (emphasis my own)
I’ve seen this with the growing movement toward encouraging the abortion of babies with Down’s Syndrome. My response when I was contacted by a panicky doctor after my son’s ultrasound showed one out of twenty-odd markers for Down’s… One, just one! Well, that response was, and shall remain, unprintable. I was at the time 27 weeks pregnant. My child was already named, a person, and this idea that we should end his life just in case it might complicate our own? If you can stomach that, I don’t want to know you. You are evil. I grew up with a severely handicapped sister. I know, and knew, what life could be like caring for a child who would never grow up. It was suggested to my mother by my sister’s doctor, in the last few years, that perhaps it would be best to simply stop giving my sister medical support and let her life come to an end. In case you wonder why I say that it would be dangerous to move to Oregon, that’s why. If you value your life, or your loved ones, you will flee before they move on from the disabled, to the merely different. Evil walks there in white coats, with honeyed tongues and simpering facades of ‘it would be better…’
For whom? You?
Compulsion is a wicked, foul thing, and just because you are convinced that ‘it’s for their own good!’ doesn’t make it right. Doesn’t make it magically change the fact that you would rather violate someone else’s rights than live and let live. You don’t care about them. You only care about what you want. And then you’re shocked when you are perceived as evil? Make a deal with d’evil, and we all know what happens next. You’ve decided that anyone who doesn’t do what you want, live like you want, they aren’t human any longer. Can’t get a vaccine? Not human. Can’t act normal (whatever normal means, which no one knows because you keep redefining that too). Not human. Can’t speak for themselves? Not human. Can’t wear a mask because of disability? Not human. Won’t bow the knee to you? most definitely inhuman, and should die or be killed.
I’m not exaggerating here. I’ve seen all of these things espoused on social media. Which is why I’m going to bow out, take some time to spend with people who understand that debate involves give and take and understanding that some things, you’re going to disagree on. And it’s all good. Everyone is a person, here, and everyone’s input is valued, and when we don’t understand, we don’t attack. We talk, and sometimes we learn. We forgive, and we engage in debate. We value one another more highly than we value our own opinions.
People are, mostly, good folks one on one. People in a crowd? Panicky, dumb, and dangerous. When they get hurt in the riot they were taking part in, they are shocked and confused. When they learn that the target of their witchhunt was innocent (as most of them are) then they deny, obfuscate, and double-down. They simply cannot accept they might be wrong about something. Anything. And that? That’s the most dangerous part of all.
*according to you, and you don’t research or question your own assumptions.